First among honey's remarkable properties is that it is a humectant that helps skin retain moisture. "Honey is primarily sugar and water," says Celeste Lutrario, director of research and development for Burt's Bees. "It attracts moisture and its high sugar content holds on to water." Honey is also acidic and therefore unfriendly to microbes and pathogens, which makes it a useful healing agent and good for sensitive skin. According to Lutrario, honey is packed with nutrients as well as natural antioxidants, which can help minimize free-radical damage from pollution and the sun. But you don't have to smear yourself with Billy Bee to reap the benefits; plenty of cosmetics companies offer easier-to-use options for hair and skin.
The Body Shop Honey Moisturizing Shampoo and Honey Moisturizing Conditioner (250 mL, $11.00 each) make use of honey's humectant properties to draw moisture to the hair's surface to keep it hydrated and frizz-free. Phytobrush Smoothing Shampoo contains honey to strengthen, soften and control hair for a smoother blow dry (200 mL, $24, 1-800-363-1660 for retailers; www.phyto.com). Honey also pops up as a control agent in styling aids such as Aveda Phomollient styling foam, which contains organic honey to boost volume and shine (200 mL, $19.99 at Aveda Experience Centres).
St. Ives Peel-Off Hydroxy Masque taps honey's hydrating qualities to moisturize as the mask exfoliates (170 mL, $4.99; drugstores). L'Occitane Honey Cream (50 mL, $36) promises to improve skin's elasticity and protect it from free-radical damage. For lips try Burt's Bees Honey Lip Balm ($4.49 at select Shoppers Drug Marts).
Of course you can do as Cleopatra did and soak in baths of milk and honey. If baths aren't your style, however, The Healing Garden Organics Wild Honey Collection might fit the bill with body wash, body scrub, lotion and body mist ($11.95 each at drug and mass retailers), all of which contain organic honey.
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Home beauty recipes from the hive
• Soften skin with 1/4 cup of honey in your bath.
• Use the antimicrobial properties of honey to your advantage: place a dollop of honey on a burgeoning pimple, cover with a Band-Aid and leave overnight. The low protein content of honey deprives nasty bacteria of the nitrogen they need to grow.
• For crafty types, reader Julie Heffernan offers her honey lip balm recipe:
1 cup sweet almond oil
1/2 cup beeswax
2 tbsp. honey
Put almond oil and beeswax in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for one minute or until melted. Whisk in honey. When cooled, pour into small containers with lids. Leave them to harden. Makes 1-1/2 cups.
• Busy bee with no time for homemade beauty? Try a handmade honey treat from Lush: Brazened Honey Bio Fresh mask ($10.45 at select LUSH stores only) is a soothing concoction to refresh worn-out skin. It's a fresh mask, so keep it in the refrigerator and use by the expiry date.
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